Volatility

July 7, 2011

The Nietzschean Ascent to Democracy (2 of 2)

Filed under: American Revolution, Freedom, Nietzsche — Tags: , — Russ @ 4:19 am

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In part 1 I discussed Nietzsche’s concept of the will to power as it could be applied to political sublimation toward democracy, opposed to the currently prevailing gutter manifestation of this will in politics and the economy.
 
The highest human embodiment of this sublimated will to power would be what Nietzsche called the Ubermensch, often grandiloquently translated as “Superman”, although N’s translator Walter Kaufmann has explained why “Overman” is a better rendering. The Ubermensch has sublimated his will to power because he’s able to organize his inner energies and exert them toward a unified creative goal. The same can be true for peoples and for humanity as a whole.
 
The most concise description of the concept appears in “Zarathustra’s Prologue” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
 

I teach you the Overman. Man is something that shall be
overcome. What have you done to overcome him?
All beings so far have created something beyond themselves: and you
want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the
beast than surpass man?
What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just
the same shall man be to the Overman: a laughing-stock, a thing of
shame.
You have made your way from the worm to man, and much within you is
still worm. Once you were apes, and even yet man is more of an ape than
any of the apes.
Even the wisest among you is only a conflict and a cross between plant
and ghost. But do I bid you become ghosts or plants?
The Overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The
Overman shall be the meaning of the earth!
I conjure you, my friends, remain true to the earth, and don’t believe
those who speak unto you of otherworldly hopes!….

What is the greatest thing you can experience?
The hour when you say: “What good is my happiness? It is poverty
and pollution and wretched contentment. But my happiness should
justify existence itself.”
The hour when you say: “What good is my reason? Does it long for
knowledge as the lion for his food? It is poverty and pollution and
wretched contentment.”
The hour when you say: “What good is my virtue? As yet it hath not
made me rage. How weary I am of my good and my bad. It is all
poverty and pollution and wretched contentment.”…
Not your sin but your thrift that cries out to heaven.
Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the
frenzy with which you should be inoculated?
Lo, I teach you the Overman: he is that lightning, he is this
frenzy!….

Man is a rope stretched between the animal and Overman – a
rope over an abyss.
A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous
looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting…

It is time for man to set a goal. It is time for man to plant
the seed of his highest hope.
Still is his soil rich enough for it. But that soil will one day
be poor and exhausted, and no great tree will any longer be able to
grow from it.
Alas! there cometh the time when man will no longer launch the arrow
of his longing beyond man
I tell you: one must still have chaos in one to give birth to a
dancing star. I tell you: you still have chaos in yourselves.
(sections 3-5)

 
Humanity has reached a crossroads; we can transcend ourselves, or ebb and regress. Our concern with a narrow notion of “the soul” at the expense of the body has brought about a fetishism of shallow notions of happiness, reason, virtue, justice, pity. All these are comprehended in a narrow, doctrinaire, stultifying way. We need a new vision and a new sense of meaning.
 
At all times we’re a potential as well as something actual, suspended over a dangerous spiritual abyss, where our spirit is tested. This test is an existential reality, not some religious abstraction. When Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls”, he meant that in a very earthly way. We must fully exert all our capacities to meet the challenge of this trial. Our will to power decrees that we wish only to give, to release, to expend ourselves, to perish and be renewed.
 
We must set a goal, we must “plant the seed of our highest hope”. Time is critical. The present moment shall never be repeated. If we squander it, we shall squander our very humanity forever. Nietzsche’s term for the “Last Man” who willingly squanders his humanity is the Untermensch.
 
But if we could overcome our childishness, profligacy, idiotic dogmas, petty and self-hobbling resentments, if we could assume adult responsibilities and become more rational and scientific (but also recognize the limits of reason and science), we’d transcend ourselves. If we, passionate beings, could live a fuller life of passion controlled and mediated by reason, passion sublimated as spirit and creativity, we’d transcend ourselves. This fuller, richer, more intelligent, more creative human being would be an “Overman” compared to the flawed, childish, dogmatic person of today, vacillating between hating his passions and being their slave; between the nihilistic worship of science and reason and the nihilistic rejection of them.
 
Thus humanity strides a tightrope between beast and self-transcendence, self-overcoming.
 
Again, with Nietzsche such concepts are always to be taken primarily in a spiritual sense. The Overman is not pictured as a political or economic tyrant. He’s master of his own inner drives and energies. The Ubermensch, if he existed in perfect form, would probably be someone we’d never hear of. He’d be self-contained, self-sufficient, spiritually unified, all his energies self-organized into a symmetric whole. There would be no excess energy. As I discussed in the post on the will to power, the whole spectrum of externalized action, from animal violence to the most rarefied heights of art and philosophy, is the externalization of energy the organism wasn’t strong enough to organize within itself. Even the greatest artists and philosophers were imperfect, too weak not to achieve such things.
 
So the Overman wouldn’t have an exoteric being which compels public action, and of course he’d never strive for money or power. In this existing configuration of civilization (if it weren’t a kleptocracy, which I’ll get to in a moment), he might be a teacher, or a small farmer, or a craftsman/artist. He wouldn’t be a campus activist, or in agribusiness, and he wouldn’t be a “driven” creative artist (since he wouldn’t have that drive to externalize in the first place). In a different, Uber-civilization, he might be different. There he might be like an ancient Greek, a thinker strolling the marketplace.
 
So that’s the individual according to Nietzsche. He also applied the concept to history. We can look at it this way. Humanity experienced its childhood, which was characterized by a religious outlook. Then there was its adolescence of the secular faith in progress, reason and science, representative government, capitalism. Now the modern age has brought our knowledge and ideas to the point that humanity, to use a biological metaphor, has reached the age of adulthood, and we’re ready to assume adult responsibilities. For Nietzsche, since the spiritual and intellectual were always paramount for him, this meant dispensing with both religion and scientism to evolve a mature philosophy of controlled spirituality and passion and respect for reason as a tool but nothing more. This is what Nietzsche called the Dionysian. By contrast, those who still adhere to religion have the minds of children, while those who still cling to Enlightenment myths about society and science are arrested adolescents.
 
To this we political animals can add the transcending of all belief in elites. Nietzsche’s call to reject the authority of priests and system philosophers has its parallel in the call to reject the fraudulent authority of politicians and capitalists. In the political and economic realm, reaching adulthood and assuming adult responsibilities means taking responsibility for our own rule, in our polities and economies. Here again, to slavishly follow a Leader is a symptom of retardation, while to still believe in “responsive” government and “accountable” elites indicates one’s adolescent mindset. Nietzsche himself didn’t care about economics and politics, but if we apply ideas like the Ubermensch, we discover its anarchist implications.
 
To give one specific example, capitalism means that an ever greater proportion of people are unable to survive independently. This is true in both the physical and intellectual senses (and usually in the spiritual as well). This includes families, communities, whole regions as well. It seeks to reduce us to the state of helpless children (where it will then abuse and starve us). So it follows that capitalism = infantilization, regression; while to overcome capitalism = to assume adult responsibilities. This overcoming simply means taking economic responsibility for oneself.
 
The same is true of representative government and the incapacity to take political responsibility for oneself.
 
Everything in history, if it evolves for long enough, evolves through a cycle of stages, from Discovery to the Progressive stage to the Decadent stage to the Malevolent stage. The Hebrew scriptures already knew this as written in their book of Ecclesiastes. This too is part of Nietzsche’s idea (though that way of phrasing it is my own). All aspects of elitism are long past any Progressive stage they may ever have had. Today elitism is Decadent at best (in the arts, philosophy, and all the things Nietzsche valued most), and in most cases Malevolent (in politics, the economy, science/technology, intellectuals insofar as they are political flunkeys).
 
Meanwhile democracy remained for thousands of years in the Discovery stage. It has endured these millennia of false starts, hijackings, diversions, misdirections. 1788 was a pivotal example. Only now is democracy ready to come into its own, to reach its full Progressive stage, which it can do only if we among humanity are ready to take up the torch and bear it ourselves.
 
I’ll close with another quote from Nietzsche, where he lays out what he considers the ethic of the Ubermensch, the gift-giving virtue.
 

It is your thirst to become sacrifices and gifts yourselves: and
therefore you have the thirst to pile up all riches in your soul.
Insatiably your soul strives for treasures and jewels, because your
virtue is insatiable in desiring to give.
You force all things to flow towards you and into you, so that
they shall flow back again out of your well as the gifts of your
love.
Verily, such a gift-giving love must approach all values like a robber;
but wholesome and holy I call this selfishness….

Remain true to the earth, my friends, with the power of your
virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve
the meaning of the earth…
Bring back to the earth the virtue which has flown away – back to the
body, back to life: that it may give to the earth its meaning, a human
meaning!…

And once again shall you become my friends and the children of
one hope: then I’ll be with you for the third time, to celebrate the
great noont with you.
And it is the great noon when man stands in the middle of his
way between beast and Overman and celebrates his way to the
evening as his highest hope: for it is the way to a new morning.
At such time will he who goes under bless himself for being one
who goes over and beyond; and the sun of his knowledge will stand
at high noon for him.
“Dead are all the Gods: now we want the Overman to live.”- On that
great noon, let this be our final will.

 
When we try to picture the basis of a truly democratic society, here’s one vision we can consider.
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31 Comments

  1. Very nice. Nietzsche can be very beautiful. Why is it that most people who adore him are such elitist, proto-fascist scum? I find myself very moved by his works, yet also repelled. Rousseau I find to be more to my liking. Even he is charged, by the standard unimaginative intellectual dead weights in the academy, of being a proto-fascist. Why is this? I suppose because Rousseau sees the limits of individualism, or rather sees the fallacy of the isolated, selfish little individual as a force for good or even the supreme good. Rousseau, like Nietzsche, would be appalled at the extent to which economics has become our religion, along with science and technology.
    Regardless, nice essay.
    On my end, the garden is growing great now that the heat and sun have hit. I need to do some major weeding, since we were gone for about a week on vacation up north. That itself was interesting: the level of interest in politics is incredibly diminished in the hinterlands, even though our state government is in shutdown mode. And I saw very few gardens or attempts at self-sufficiency. I think it does exist, especially if you get off the grid in the backroads. In the main, however, I hear not much about the crisis we are in. It was all about the Loverboy concert at the new National Park amphitheater. So it goes…

    Comment by Publius — July 7, 2011 @ 11:27 am

    • Thanks, Publius.

      Has it been your experience that most Nietzsche admirers are that kind of scum? I know a lot of that kind used to exist, but I can’t say that I’ve seen many myself. Most real appreciators I’ve seen have understood him fairly well, even if they disagreed with him. In fact, the only type I recall seeing who still assume he’s a proto-fascist are liberal detractors, not fascist supporters.

      Rousseau’s often called an authoritarian because his idea of the general will demands that individuals live up to their responsibilities as citizens (which part I agree with), and also because he does end up supporting the state and elitist “law” (which I don’t agree with). I agree it’s absurd and anachronistic to call him a “fascist”. According to Rousseau’s scheme in The Social Contract, a fascist place isn’t a polity or society at all, as the people would have to have liquidated their own sovereignty and sold themselves into slavery, as America is doing as we speak.

      On that note, I’m sorry to hear that you’re not seeing much of a change in attitudes. I can report some slight progress at the farmers’ market; whereas last year few people came up to the booth to say that they consider what we’re doing to be politically important, already in three sessions this season we’ve had over two dozen such opinions offered.

      I’m glad your garden’s doing well. Mine is getting there, little by little. I have several green tomatoes on the vine, and some small zucchinis showing. No cucumbers yet.

      Comment by Russ — July 7, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

      • Russ: One interesting thought I’ve had regarding your interest in Nietzsche is that he seems to see the gift of transcendence as something rare and for an individual – almost like the unique gift of Rousseau’s “lawgiver.” How does this seeming elitism fit in with your “radical” democratic project? Of course, any philosophy that is originally elitist can be appropriated, but it’s interesting that you find a philosopher who is notorious for being misunderstood by the masses to be congenial to your project.
        I certainly find his ideas and prose to be compelling and poetic, but they lack the inner harmony and sense of peace that Rousseau seems to possess.

        Rousseau would likely have appreciated gardening more!
        My son and I were eating tender peas out of the garden tonight. Not many, but it’s amazing how the vitality and life force inherent in fresh garden vegetables really does give one a boost…
        I’m inspired to create some hoop-type mini-greenhouses for the fall, to keep the lettuces coming! The green of salad is far better for the soul than the green the filthy financiers are chasing….

        Comment by Publius — July 8, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

      • I’ve acknowledged in each of this Nietzsche series (I originally projected four posts and have now completed them; there may be more in the future, I don’t know yet) that N consciously disliked political activism and didn’t care about politics or the economy (and understood neither). It’s clear that his philosophy is meant to be for the spiritually and intellectually intense individual. Nevertheless I’ve tried to establish that if you apply his ideas to politics, their implications are anarchist. I probably described best what I mean in this passage from my first post of the series:

        https://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/positive-freedom-nietzsche-marx-and-anarchism/


        Nietzsche himself wrote about psychological, spiritual, and creative issues, not about politics and the economy. (Indeed, he affected to despise the latter, and one of the inferior elements of his writing is his intermittent attacks on political radicals, for whom he used “anarchist” as a catch-all term. He was basically ignorant about politics and economics and didn’t want to know about them.) But although I no longer subscribe to his spiritualized cult of aristocracy, I’m finding that if I transpose his ideas on spiritual and intellectual creators to an expression about producers in general, then almost everything he says can be redeemed for anarchism.

        By producers I mean producers who have political self-respect and the will to fight.

        So I’m thinking out the idea of transposing the master/slave morality in this way:

        Master morality = Positive freedom, the bottom-up assertion of political and economic democracy, the assertion through day-to-day action of freedom and human dignity, and worker self-actualization. This is not primarily a “rebellion” against the criminals, seeking “liberation” from them, although it is that as well. It is first and foremost a Renaissance of our humanity, a rebirth, a revolution in the classical sense of “revolving back” to the primal human order.

        Slave morality = The fetish of negative/bourgeois freedom (negative freedom is a wonderful thing, but only as a tool toward some human goal, not as a value in itself), the desire for “enlightened” elitism, ”benevolent” despotism, the rancid dream of trickle-down (political, economic, spiritual, cultural), everything that is characteristic of liberals and conservatives.

        One of the many parallels between Marx and Nietzsche is the shared philosophy of the producer. Marx wrote about the worker, but conceived him as a producer seeking fulfillment through his self-owned and -directed work. He conceived his ideal society based upon this. He didn’t see the worker as the consumer, except derivatively. He didn’t view people as naturally experiencing work as a chore to be endured and completed so they could get on with consumption.

        We can see here how he had his own idea of the positive morality of the worker as creative producer, vs. the slave morality of the consumer. This is an extension of the labor theory of value, which Marx didn’t invent but expanded into a vision of society. The best society is that in which the laborer has freedom over his labor, where he produces as a free human being. Any coercive elitism, any hierarchy, any extraction, alienates the worker from his work.

        And so it’s true in general. All parasitic elitism, all wealth and power concentration, stands between us and our freedom, between us and our labor fulfillment, between us and our humanity. It aggressively alienates us from our birthright. The criminals have taken what could have been such a wonderful world and turned it into a place of, at best, bare struggle and tension and fear, and at worst, more often, misery and slavery and violence.

        Similar to Marx, Nietzsche wrote about art and philosophy, but wrote about them from the perspective of the artist and the thinker, and that’s the audience for whom he wrote. He didn’t write primarily for the art lover and reader of philosophy.

        So in a sense it’s an “elite” mindset, but for the active strata among the productive populace. Both despise parasites, wasteful idlers, rentiers of every sort. It’s just a different emphasis. So in both cases the “elitism”, if we can call it that, overt in Nietzsche’s case and implicit in that of Marx, is that it’s a philosophy of, by, and for the producer, not the consumer. It envisions a social world constructed for the self-actualization of the producer, not the comfort of the consumer.

        By contrast, every kind of what can be called passive elitism, all concentrated wealth and power, every trickle-down political and economic ideology – corporatism, capitalism, liberalism, representative democracy, etc. – seems focused on the hedonism of the consumer. It wants to pander to passivity. (And of course none of it works the way it claims. The comfort of the consumer, as we’re now seeing, was only provisional and temporary.)

        The best of Marx’s self-directing worker (without the contradictory centralism) and Nietzsche’s self-directing thinker and creator (without the ivory tower snobbery) are combined in anarchism, which also revalues the seeming “elitism” of the affirmative producer philosophy through the egalitarianism of direct participation, equality of opportunity to work, to create, to seek human fulfillment.

        Perhaps these ideas could be much further developed, if I or someone else continued to work on it.

        That leads to your other question, Why bother trying to apply N to politics at all? I agree, it’s not objectively necessary. While I would tell any reader that my posts on, for example, corporatism:

        https://attempter.wordpress.com/series-on-corporatism/

        are essential, I wouldn’t say that about these N posts.

        I suppose the reason is mostly subjective. For many years, before I found my true world view and political calling, I drifted as a purely radical intellectual, basically nihilist. During those years I read Nietzsche obsessively, every book many times. He was my one guide and comrade during years when everything else and every other idea looked worthless.

        Since I found my real path, I’ve read far less of him. (Which, incidentally, is exactly what N considered to be the proper use of his books. In another part of the section of Zarathustra I quoted above, The Gift-Giving Virtue, N has Z explicitly tell his disciples that they’re bad learners if they remain students and don’t eventually find their own path. There are many other examples, and N often directly tells the reader that.)

        But for the sake of my own clarification, and to better experience the continuity of my own development, I’d still like to be able to integrate all those years of N reading into my own mature thought. It makes things feel more like a unified evolution. So I wrote these pieces for myself, and for anyone else who might find them of intrinsic interest. But I don’t consider them objectively necessary.

        Comment by Russ — July 9, 2011 @ 7:14 am

  2. To this we political animals can add the transcending of all belief in elites. Nietzsche’s call to reject the authority of priests and system philosophers has its parallel in the call to reject the fraudulent authority of politicians and capitalists. In the political and economic realm, reaching adulthood and assuming adult responsibilities means taking responsibility for our own rule, in our polities and economies.

    A very interesting post, thank you. Many adults are unable to transcend the adult-child dynamic in their relationships. They view everything in these terms and are almost incapable of interacting with others on an adult-adult level. Just as some Protestants rejected the idea of an intermediary between man and God so too do we reject the need for an intermediary between the people and their sovereignty.

    According to the metaphor of adolescence I suppose the rulers and representatives are our parents and we the people are their children, yet in practice they act like parents of some other children. We are orphans condemned as in a fairytale by the most heartless and wicked stepparents on Earth. A genuine parent would act in the interest of his children and ensure their future. Instead, those who rule seek only to exploit us and enrich themselves, which makes our true relationship closer to master and slave. Which brings to mind the following from the KJV Bible:

    Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (KJV Matthew 7:9-11)

    How depraved do you have to be to give your hungry child a snake when he asks for something to eat? Even a wicked parent won’t starve his child to death. And yet that’s the situation we’re in with these thieves. It’s an odd system of government where we elect representatives to represent somebody else. They don’t do what we want and they don’t act in our interest, so why do they exist at all? They are not our parents, they are not our masters, we don’t need them, nobody in their right mind would choose them.

    And since I’m quoting Jesus, I can’t stop myself from remarking on the miracle of loaves and fishes. Of course the real miracle is not that some Roman era mystic magically copy-and-pasted enough rye and halibut to feed 4000 people. The miracle is that when he persuaded his followers to share what they had, there was more than enough for everyone. With bushels left over, simply by persuading people to stop hoarding among themselves. That was an honest miracle, not some stupid fairy tale.

    Comment by reslez — July 7, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

    • You describe it all well, reslez. Most people not only refuse to stop being children, but would obey orders to forcibly prevent the adults we have from acting as adults.

      Except that I wouldn’t use the term miracle for the people’s being able to feed themselves and otherwise produce for themselves and rule themselves. That way of looking at it is part of the lying interpretation of the Bible the capitalist criminals have foisted upon people.

      On the contrary, all Jesus really said is that the bread and fishes (assuming sane agricultural practices and well-managed fisheries; both are infinitely more likely where the people rule their own production rather than letting any parasite elite rule anything) are there for the taking and potentially bountiful for all, if we simply and directly take them for ourselves rather than let some worthless parasite interpose.

      Comment by Russ — July 8, 2011 @ 10:47 am

  3. “But if we could overcome our childishness, profligacy, idiotic dogmas, petty and self-hobbling resentments, if we could assume adult responsibilities and become more rational and scientific (but also recognize the limits of reason and science), we’d transcend ourselves. If we, passionate beings, could live a fuller life of passion controlled and mediated by reason, passion sublimated as spirit and creativity, we’d transcend ourselves. This fuller, richer, more intelligent, more creative human being would be an “Overman” compared to the flawed, childish, dogmatic person of today, vacillating between hating his passions and being their slave; between the nihilistic worship of science and reason and the nihilistic rejection of them.”

    My fundamental (and growing) problem with Western philosophy generally is its insistence on describing how things are, which, once it is accepted as correct, becomes the description of how things ought to be. Because of the way the human brain works, merely substituting one description of how the world is with another will not, cannot, achieve the transcendence you seek. This is because the world is not a static thing. It is dynamic, never stuck in any one state.

    The only way to break free of false dichotomies that our brains spawn whenever they accept an orthodoxy (i.e., anything that is not orthodox fails to meet expectations and, as a result, gives rise to a negative emotion that compels us to attack and change what disappointed us) is to stop trying to describe how things are and focus on describing how things work. We need to accept that human beings are NOT rational in the manner described (falsely) by Western philosophy, that human beings merely compare what they experience to what they expect and act emotionally on the basis of that comparison. Most philosophy/theology seeks to control human action by defining how the world is and, therefore, setting and controlling expectations of how the world ought to be.

    The one exception I’ve found is the Tao Te Ching (I purposefully am not saying Taoism because I think the religion that has spun up around the Tao Te Ching is contrary to the Tao, which describes how the world works, not how it is or ought to be). I actually view the Tao Te Ching as just an ancient recognition of what I’ve discovered recently on my own.

    The way for humanity to transcend itself is to embrace its humanity, and what defines humanity is the process of how we make decisions. We need to be realistic in what it means to be rational. We also need to be rational in what it means to be realistic. When we strike the proper balance between realism and rationalism, we will find a third way that transcends both.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — July 7, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

    • Everything you say here is in the spirit of Nietzsche (who was influenced by Eastern philosophy, BTW).

      He went so far as to deny that “things” exist at all, because everything is nothing but a bundle of qualities which are incessantly changing, always in motion.

      To put it in grammatical terms, nouns don’t exist, but rather everything is only a bundle of verbs. N was always criticizing grammar for deluding us into reifications; because grammar forces us to think and speak in terms of subject-predicate, we come to believe the subject actually exists as something separate from the predicate.

      This is because the world is not a static thing. It is dynamic, never stuck in any one state.

      N concludes Beyond Good and Evil with a poem called “From High Mountains: Aftersong”. Kaufmann (also an eminent translator of German poetry) says it’s not one of his better poems. (I don’t know German well enough to judge for myself.) But he singles out this one line as “magnificent”:

      Nur wer sich wandelt, bleibt mit mir verwandt.

      He translates it (inadequately, according to his own testimony):

      One has to change to stay akin to me.

      That sums up what Nietzsche always calls upon the reader to do: Keep evolving, keep changing, the way he always was.

      Comment by Russ — July 8, 2011 @ 10:48 am

  4. Hi Russ,
    I’m taking Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” on vacation with me.
    I’m looking forward to reading someone who was prophetic enough to recognize that the corruption of the democratic ideal leads to, on the one hand, authoritarian government, and on the other, the silent, seething but OBEDIENT masses (remember the silent majority ? voluntary servitude is the name of the game).
    As the Enlightenment ideals bottom out, and “we” realize that we will NOT be God (or “God”, take your pick), that we are, and always will be CREATURES and not creators, however much we might like to pretend to the contrary, there is a keen note of despair in the air.
    Our DISILLUSION has always tended to make us dangerous… for ourselves and others. Gotta believe in something in order for there to be enough trust for SOCIETY to work.
    Let’s hope it won’t provoke us to take the planet down with us.
    And I’m not JUST talking about the U.S., either…

    Comment by Debra — July 11, 2011 @ 2:18 am

    • Hi Debra,

      We are, and always will be CREATURES and not creators, however much we might like to pretend to the contrary

      That’s a succinct statement of one of the precepts of the very “obedient masses” you describe.

      Obviously, this blog and those who feel an affinity with it believe the opposite. An anarchist, a positive democrat, is by definition a creator and not a creature to the extent it’s within his power. He tries to live this way as much as possible, while striving toward a society dedicated to that principle. At the very least it’s always within our spiritual power. And history proves that wherever we can get a handhold, we can accomplish far more. As I’ve written many times, I believe the post-oil transformation will be the best chance true democracy will ever have.

      Comment by Russ — July 11, 2011 @ 9:33 am

      • A month ago, I attended a theater workshop with a guy who really had to prove his point.
        He had to prove his point at any cost.
        It’s called… the passion of being right. (Mea culpa, I can take it to great heights…) Boy did those sparks fly between us…
        Personally, from the little that I’ve read of Nietzsche, I think that HIS TAKE ON ARTISTOCRACY, one of the attitudes you do not share with him, is the one that I DO share with him…
        It looks like we’re still sparring partners, Russ…
        Haven’t you ever watched those 1950’s American romantic comedies ?
        Never watched.. “It happened one night”, for example ?
        Whoever said that being a creature meant being obedient ?
        Obedient to.. WHAT ? WHO ?
        If I went out and jumped off a cliff, I would be defying… what ? who ?
        Would you tell me that I was not being… “realistic” ?? Would I be free ? Why ? Why not ?
        The key to freedom is to realize that it is circumscribed within CERTAIN LIMITS.
        No limits.. NO FREEDOM. It goes down the drain.
        Basically, I now believe that freedom is a question of our personal PRIVATE attitude.
        There is NO FREEDOM IN SOCIETY and there never will be.
        As I told Edwardo, I AM NOT AN ACTIVIST. Not at all.
        I think that our species HAS BEEN FAR TOO ACTIVE RECENTLY.
        A little inaction on our part would be very welcome.
        When you are a hyperactive species, how can you expect to exit hyperactivity through MORE ACTIVITY ??
        Excuse me. I have a hard time understanding…
        I have spent a little time reading Ivan Illich. Great writer. He quotes one of the early Church fathers “the corruption of the best engenders the worst”. I definitely agree on that one.
        Cheers.

        Comment by Debra — July 11, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

      • Basically, I now believe that freedom is a question of our personal PRIVATE attitude.
        There is NO FREEDOM IN SOCIETY and there never will be.
        As I told Edwardo, I AM NOT AN ACTIVIST. Not at all.
        I think that our species HAS BEEN FAR TOO ACTIVE RECENTLY.

        IOW, you’re objectively an activist on behalf of the status quo power structure. Especially in that exaltation of private interests and fetish of negative freedom: The epitome of the bourgeois ideology.

        Comment by Russ — July 11, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

    • Gotta believe in something in order for there to be enough trust for SOCIETY to work.

      By “something,” do you mean some kind of “Creator,” a god in heaven above? If so, I strongly disagree. If not, what do you mean?

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — July 11, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

      • I mean that if you don’t BELIEVE, if you are not exercising that ORGAN OF BELIEF.. it will exercise you, unbeknowst to you.
        I apparently have a Pascalian attitude towards God.
        He ? It ? all powerful, omnipotent beard wearing old man ? Prime mover ?
        The variations on the “God” theme are infinite.
        But “God” is the external element to our symbolic systems that permits them to work without imploding.
        We are currently in societal crisis because the “supreme authority” place has been erased.
        Try building ANY society without authority.
        Authority is LIKE “God”. If you try to erase it, it just pops its head up elsewhere, in another form.

        Comment by Debra — July 11, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

      • I strongly disagree, Debra. Neoliberalism (and the orthodox social sciences that perpetuate it) is nothing more or less than a secular religion that mandates the belief that the “free market” is god and that economic “winners” are modern kings chosen by god.

        Modern society finds itself in its current predicament precisely because it BELIEVES things that simply are not true. Humanity’s innate desire to be CERTAIN of all things– the font of all BELIEF– is humanity’s greatest weakness, not its greatest strength. The sooner that humanity can accept uncertainty, the sooner it can transcend its propensity for embracing things that are beyond belief for the simple comfort doing so provides, the sooner it can appreciate the beauty of reality.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — July 11, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

      • I think Mark Twain said something about the worst being when you know something for sure that just ain’t so.

        Comment by Russ — July 12, 2011 @ 6:24 am

  5. Sea-to-Sea Organic Farm Tour
    A family in a bus interviews farmers across North America
    The book will be an in-depth sourcebook for beginning organic farmers, and also a showcase of the most amazing farms in North America.

    video

    http://www.sprword.com/organicfarmtour.html

    Or this for a national search of local farming.
    http://www.localharvest.org/

    Comment by jwbeene — July 11, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

    • Sounds great, thanks jwbeene. I know Local Harvest, though the last I checked we hadn’t registered our farmers’ market with them yet.

      Comment by Russ — July 11, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

  6. Wow, Russ… talk about hasty generalizations about my positions….
    You should know me better than that by now.
    I’m not going to fit into your PRECONCEIVED IDEAS about the supposedly bourgeois way that I’m living my life.
    We are probably doing the same things, by the way.
    Ironically enough.. it is when we are the most convinced that we are INDIVIDUALS that our behavior is probably the most predictable.
    The ISOLATED individual exists in logical and linguistic opposition to the undivided masses.
    Maybe YOU should be reading Robespierre ??
    The country where I’m living has taken SOCIALISM to new heights.
    You like socialism ?
    I don’t. I am living in a socialist society, so, to a certain extent, I feel more qualified to express just how much I feel THE YOKE OF IT.
    Everybody has HIS part to play in this great show.
    If WE ALL PLAYED THE SAME PART, and did the same things ?
    Do you think that would be paradise on earth ?
    Not me.
    How ironic that France is busy dismantling its SOCIALIST government/society at a time when U.S. citizens are crying out for single payer healthcare.
    Two ships passing in the night…

    Comment by Debra — July 11, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

    • France was never socialist. It’s been a liberal welfare state which, like clockwork, is now being dismantled. That’s as per the intended use of the liberal welfare state, an item of planned obsolescence.

      Comment by Russ — July 12, 2011 @ 6:26 am

    • I know you’re a free thinker, Debra, and I wouldn’t ever attempt to generalize your belief system, mostly because I’m not sure I understand it. That’s why I tend to ask you to clarify what you mean before responding to something I think I may disagree with.

      Much of what you seem to be saying about the individual in isolation seems consistent with what Niebuhr had to say in Moral Man, Immoral Society.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — July 12, 2011 @ 11:09 am

  7. I don’t have much to contribute to the little ‘spat’ that is on the surface about belief or religion. I will only point out that some of the most truly democratic, pacifist, and anti-slavery/anti-corporate groups have been religious: Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, etc. I see almost no correlation between a person’s belief in a supreme being and their commitment to democratic ideals, or commitment to environmental justice. For example, there is a growing movement in fundamentalist churches to support environmental protection and social justice. There are atheists who are Randian Objectivist jihadists… There is, however, a correlation between openness/spirituality (broadly defined) and democratic ideals and a desire to protect life. One definition of spirituality is a sense of the unity and connectedness of the world. I really do not want to get into a debate on anything theological. The best book for those who have no understanding of the spiritual/religious impulse, written from an outsider who gained a profound understanding of the role and importance of it, is “The Variety of Religious Experience,” by William James. James was a founder of American Pragmatism and a founder of American experimental psychology, and the brother of the novelist Henry James.

    Debra is obviously commenting here because she cares… let’s not alienate potential allies or those who are undergoing their own political and social awakenings. We are all confused in these times… humility and openness are absolutely essential if we are not to tear ourselves apart. Remember what happened to the French Revolution, Russian Rev, etc. etc.

    Comment by Publius — July 12, 2011 @ 9:32 am

    • I think this blog has a history of seeking both rational understanding and the ideas which can stir the spirit. The latter is a big part of the reason I’ve worked so hard to draw a lineage between the original American Revolution and our situation today. I suppose in the jargon that’s the “revolutionary mythology” I’m trying to construct, although it’s also historically true, as I think I’ve done some work toward establishing. There’s of course lots more work to be done.

      Without false modesty, I have to say that I’m not confused about anything. Everything about our situation and the principle which must go forward are clear to me. The only uncertainties I still have are about strategy and tactics.

      (BTW, Debra’s not a new commenter here. She and I go way back, and based on that I think your assessment of her is off.)

      Comment by Russ — July 12, 2011 @ 9:54 am

      • Russ: Well, you are certainly successful at stirring the spirit. And I agree that you are not confused about anything related to your ideas about democracy, decentralization, the criminality of the corporations, and related items. I believe I meant that even with clear ideas and ideals, the world we are in, and the struggles, will confuse us at times. The political battles going on, as in my state of Minnesota with the ongoing shutdown, are similar to wars, and warfare always sparks confusion and uncertainty (which the corporatists cleverly and often successfully try to take advantage of). I was making a point about the nature of living in reality. It is confusing, and we all need help in our struggle to observe reality, analyze it, and figure out the best course of action.

        I know nothing of Debra’s history on this site. I was only trying to encourage dialogue, instead of ideological shouting.
        There’s no need for false modesty, Russ, as your ideas are well thought out and inspiring. I’m sure you realize that your ideas and ideals are based on firm ground, so that you can afford a healthy amount of humility in dealing with those who disagree with you, and therefore carry on a dialog. My impression is that you don’t feel a need to root out heretics on your site.

        Comment by Publius — July 12, 2011 @ 10:10 am

      • Thanks, publius. I agree, the fog and chaos of war engender a kind of confusion. Thanks for trying to encourage dialogue instead of shouting. (You’ve noticed Debra’s peculiar typography.)

        You’re right, I don’t have the category “heretic”. But I’m also not going to engage in what I already know are pointless arguments. That only drains energy and leaves one burned out.

        Returning to Naked Capitalism after another break, I’ve already restrained myself from getting in some stupid arguments (over Obama’s intentions, over “left” and “right”), since I know it’s pointless.

        I’m moving on, slowly, with some uncertainly over what’s the next stage of writing. That’s why posting has been so light lately; hopefully I’m fermenting rather than rotting. 🙂

        Comment by Russ — July 12, 2011 @ 10:21 am

    • There is a huge difference between organized religion and spirituality.

      Modern economics has all the hallmarks of an organized religion and yet it is not “spiritual” in the least. Now, we can say that there are some economists out there who see past the dogma of the orthodoxy and argue for reforms to address the underlying rot that most economists pretend does not exist, but the fact there are a few exceptions does not mean there is no correlation between modern economics and the rot, only that the study of economics has not caused all economists to be rotten human beings.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — July 13, 2011 @ 10:59 am

      • I’d go so far as to say that once anything becomes congealed and corporate, “organized” in the sense we’re talking about, that’s a clear sign that it’s lost whatever spirit it ever had.

        That certainly applies to the devolution of political economy to technocratic “economics”.

        Comment by Russ — July 13, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  8. Nietzsche…. alright, a common denominator, Not sure how this will pan out but here goes.

    I found this post in the most bizarre way. And after reading it seems Nietzsche has made an impact in most of your lives. I learned about him in the 1980s during college, among other ‘things’ (Hope College). I truly thought I forgot about him until I read this presentation (appreciated greatly) and these posts as my curiosity built momentum. I can’t add much to the topic itself however there is something I have been able to transcend (now I remember where I picked this up :0 ) and it has helped to some degree. The final conclusion, for all of us, seems the most difficult, and that is the ‘being’ part after all is said and done. And forgive me if I’m too presumptuous in my generalities. In most cases, I sense we are more alike than not.

    Several months ago, something triggered me to seriously start digging, and since I had the time+determination, to make clear some connection with today’s world amid the constant decay. We all know way too many examples of the decay I refer to. Now this is the part which gets difficult for me to explain, since I’m relatively rational. The connection I think a few of you have yet to entirely make to our modern day’s predicament is a rather large, systemic conspiracy I’m still trying to grasp, and this is where the reader, if there are any, starts questioning or agreeing with the coming thoughts. I’m just a fledgling in this realm so it’s likely some of you who agree may be well ahead of my research.

    My Facebook profile listed is primarily my own public accumulation of research going back to the beginning of this year, and I was surprised at how much information was virtually out there yet collectively segregated for the most part. The first name I’ll mention is probably the most relevant, from the countless hours of documents and documentaries I’ve compiled, and whether you agree or disagree with him, Eustace Mullins (possibly some of you may know and add your thoughts) has been a beacon for truth for myself. But then you delve into Carroll Quigley, John Perkins, Anthony Sutton, Benjamin Freeman, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges, Thomas Barnett, Bjorn Lomborg, Michael Levine, John Taylor Gatto, among the most prominent which come to mind, and you see that foremost these are primarily top notch scholars or people with a high level of exposure to historical documentation.

    What exactly is the conspiracy, that Eustace Mullins reveals the most extensively? That modern civilization in the Western Hemisphere is not a gradual decline of cumulative acts, such as escalating corporatism, corrupt governance, corrupt judicial processes, global warming, etc. but a centralized force derived over 300 years ago.in a 25 point plan by Mayer Amsel Rothschild. Here is one link to an overview of this plan http://nationalisttruth1.blogspot.com/2008/07/rothschild-25-point-plan-for-world.html

    And what my own research has found, which actually is the research and real world experiences of those I mentioned above, is the connective network of this global domination plan originated in 1773. The foundation of this power was designed in centralized banks, which basically are the world’s government banks held by private stockholders. Few know of the power struggle between these powerful men and the United States, let alone how this group, primarily led by Rothschild, gained their power in fortune in England. I could go on and on but if you’re interested then a good start is just reading or listening to Eustace Mullin’s ‘History of the Federal Reserve’.

    Once you recognize this documented history, rarely told in schools, you’ll begin to see the connections between the media, Hollywood, pharmaceutical companies, corporations, the American Medical Association, The American Cancer Society, your educational systems and these groups whose collective names include, but are not limited to, The Council of Foreign Relations, The Bilderberg Group, The Trilateral Commission, Rand Corporation, IPEC used through the Global Warming faction, and yes, the ultra conspiracy word, Illuminati.

    So what does this have to do with Nietzsche? Well, as I said upfront, out of sheer coincidence I found this blog and immediately related to what most of you were saying. I realized that I wasn’t entirely going bonkers and people had the same soul searching questions as myself. Yet some of you haven’t entirely grasped the root, from what you were presenting as core issues, and remain focused on the smaller diversions of the problem. And at the same time most of you have no comprehension of the entirety of control they’ve had over our core institutions whereas in America the foundations of Rockefeller and Carnegie were nothing more but tax free vehicles to completely control and manipulate the structure surrounding the lives of the masses towards their quest for power and control. Wealth isn’t even a major concern anymore.

    I’ve said more than enough for you to realize the immensity of this degradation of modern civilization if it were true. I no longer doubt. So that leaves me, with many of you, still wondering what purpose do I derive and could possibly offer in a spiritual sense. I came across Jiddu Krishnamurti (though I have other sources of of spiritual guidance), and he helped me to a degree in putting this in a context I could relate to,.in terms I could grasp. My output, at least for this moment, is reaffirming the strength of the family and giving strength to its core foundation. I’m sure in our commonality, most of you likely have a higher propensity towards love and compassion. Now you can add truth to the realities of our world without veils and mystery. There is a definitive evil in man so there must be a definitive opposite, since I, and some of you, personally remain restless spiritually trying to expound the goodness we possess. I think we have a responsibility to reach out of our intellectual selves and always find ways to affirm love, compassion and empathy in our lives. One element that remains recorded in the history of ‘man’ is the wisdom of those who held the pursuit of life, liberty and freedom (as tacky as it may sound) sometimes in great sacrifice. So we must strive to be better within our own realms, even in the obvious realities of oppression, tyranny, injustice, violence, brutality, and so on.

    In conclusion, it’s entirely ironic to have found this post and for me to go to such great lengths to share something I really haven’t done in entirety yet. I am thankful there were people before me who did the same at some point so possibly this may somehow help a few of you. If you have more interest in this ‘conspiracy’ network I will suggest the names I’ve listed above, especially Eustace Mullins. Just Youtube or Search any of the names and you’re all resourceful and intelligent enough to draw your own conclusions. I also recently found this website http://www.whale.to/ helpful. It’s rather overwhelming and had I seen it at the start of my research, I’d not realize its significance as a resource. Since I haven’t read all the info here, I can only say use your own judgment. But I can verify what I have read and if you focus on the facts and disregard some spin as irrelevant, you’ll realize the smaller issues you focus on now are trivial compared to comprehending the big picture.

    Kraig

    Comment by kraig peterson — July 19, 2011 @ 11:57 am

    • Thanks, Kraig. I know those names and have read some of them. I’m glad to read that your spiritual seeking has led you to love and compassion, as those are the fundamental bricks of the new society we have to build. There’s nothing at all tacky about life, liberty, and freedom, let alone the sacrifices they shall require if they’re to persist and triumph. And it’s true, no matter how fearsome and heavy the menace and reality of oppression, tyranny, injustice, violence, brutality become, we must always strive to be better within ourselves and treat one another the same way. That’s the first requirement of the fight against the enemy.

      Comment by Russ — July 19, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

      • Russ,

        I’m even gladder to have some like minds near my orbit. Just the other day a Southern Baptist Calvinist began their ‘debate’, which is hopeless to even ensue unless you are one.

        The point I really wish to convey, above all else, is the enemy is often ourselves, if we are ineffectual. And the truth of our western civilization now, as limited as it may be, is we have been so encapsulated by false premises that we cannot clearly see. For example, Global Warming, another control ploy to misdirect us for ulterior purposes. Yes, there is global warming, but as Al Gore and Margaret Thatcher wish you to believe, CO2 is not a precursor to temperature change but rather elevated CO2 is seen hundreds of years after a rise in temperature is observed. Their motive to perpetuate this propaganda is far from altruistic and rooted in both control and profits. So here we waste our own energy trying to save the environment while they ‘frack’ in your backyard. I do hope you are aware of ‘fracking’, which the government fully supports, and ultimately contaminates the drinking water of families to the point it is flammable.

        This is a consistent theme. So when I state every major institution in our society is built on this premise, it means you and the generations before you are products of this Orwellian control. Focusing on current issues and politics becomes nearly irrelevant when, another example, political denomination remains a hot button. It’s just a distraction to the realities that both parties are controlled by the same forces. Bush/Cheney (who is a CFR member) were just catalysts to facilitate global events while Obama continues the core policies of the ultra elite. We talk about budget cuts and a billion dollars here or there. Local governance is being herded towards state and national governance as more states reach bankruptcy, which is part of the globalization process. Yet at the beginning of this year at a committee hearing the Federal Reserve couldn’t explain how they misplaced 9 trillion dollars. A stack of $1,000 dollar bills that equals $1 trillion dollars is nearly 70 miles high. For 9 trillion we’d be in outer space. Yet do we hear about this in the media? No, we hear about school closures and balance cuts to local budgets while congress haggles over a mere $50 billion. Or the unaccounted billions of dollars in contracts lost within companies like Haliburton which barely gets mentioned. And meanwhile terrorism has only rooted the ‘Patriot Act’ to supersede Constitutional mandates to our rights.

        The reality is we don’t recognize who the enemy really is so we waste our efforts trying to focus on the brush fires. The enemy has been so engrained into our societies, culture and institutions, ultimately ourselves, that we become our own greatest obstacle to being effectual. I do hope you read the 25 points written over 300 years ago and relate it to modern history with clarity. I believe, upon finding your Nietzche post, that as I read I was rather awed by his insight and the fact that many of my principles are often based on his beliefs. That my conclusion, the child and family are the nucleus, and we must strengthen that bond while teaching the next generation the truth on how to recognize the true enemy, now embedded into our institutions, so we can resist them more effectively in our day to day lives. Whereas the 25 points are designed to decimate the family structure and place it into the hands of the state.

        We must speak out. Few people really know the real truth behind the supporters of Hitler nor the Bolshevik Revolution. They do not know real history because the education system is controlled by the same individuals who facilitated and supported two sides of a war. Benjamin Freeman makes an extremely strong stance in his 1961 speech, but then he was there in the backrooms. And if we find him too revolutionary or radical, read Anthony Sutton, who premises his studies strictly on historical documents and events. So in our minds we don’t conceive there is a greater enemy than Hitler, who remains as a modern day model for evil, when in fact he was created by more devious men who our history laments with praise as industrial pioneers (Carnegie, Morgan, Rockefeller, Harriman, Openheimer, etc.). On the contrary, these men had strong ties to the Rothschild dynasty.

        “Money is Power”, or shall we say, “The Monopoly to Create Credit Money and charge interest is Absolute Power”. (Alex James)

        “Let me issue and control a Nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws”. (Amsel Bauer Mayer Rothschild, 1838)

        Letter written from London by the Rothschilds to their New York agents introducing their banking method into America: “The few who can understand the system will be either so interested in its profits, or so dependent on its favours, that there will be no opposition from that class, while, on the other hand, that great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantage that Capital derives from the system, will bear its burden without complaint and, perhaps, without even suspecting that the system is inimical to their interests.” (Amsel Bauer Mayer Rothschild)

        We must speak out, not just current events, but within the context of knowledge of where the real enemy lies.

        “When the Nazis came for the communists, I did not speak out; As I was not a communist.
        When they locked up the social democrats, I did not speak out; I was not a social democrat.
        When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; As I was not a trade unionist.
        When they came for the Jews, I did not speak out; As I was not a Jew.
        When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.”

        -Martin Niemöller

        I recognize my speaking out is borderline insanity, but how else can I ‘shake the tree’?

        Comment by Kraig Peterson — July 20, 2011 @ 1:53 am

      • I think speaking out is the most sane thing we can do. There’s certainly no safety in silence.

        And the more who speak, the more who will become emboldened to speak. Speaking, which is another term for politics in the true sense, conjures a virtuous circle, just as silence perpetuates a vicious circle.

        Comment by Russ — July 20, 2011 @ 3:58 am


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